Although a large number of South African males will get a twinkle in the eye when talk turns to big six-cylinder Ford performance sedans of the past, perhaps an equally large number will pull up their noses in disgust. As much as the XR-6 derivatives of the Cortina and Sierra were entertaining, there was also an inherent tackiness to them that would make a similar effort these days as popular as a mullet and handle-bar moustache. So, the new Ford Mondeo ST220 faces a stiff challenge – it not only has to live up to whatever dormant fantasies there may be out there about a fast, big Ford performance sedan, but also has to do so in a way that is appreciably more “sophisticated”.
Ford Mondeo has got the lookEven well into its product life-cycle, the current Ford Mondeo remains a handsome machine and a far cry from the overtly oval-themed models that first arrived in South Africa. The design is quite edgy in places, and the addition of sporty ST detailing has actually improved it. Filling those nicely flared wheelarches are very striking (and very shiny) 18-inch alloy wheels. Twin exhaust outlets sprout from the rear. And there have been subtle, but very effective revisions to the bumpers and sills. A very small spoiler has been added to the bootlid. Overall, Ford has done well to add performance cred to the Mondeo without being garish.
Interior changes have been even more subtle. Save for the aggressively bolstered Recaro sports seats and racy looking instrumentation, it is very much standard Ford Mondeo fare in there, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, seeing as the facia design has aged well. It’s a very tidy layout, with the emphasis on simplicity and solidity of build. Ford has also been generous with the standard kit – with a powerful audio system, six airbags (including curtain items), leather upholstery, electric seat adjustment, climate control, rake/reach adjustable steering wheel and remote audio controls all being present and accounted for.
One of the Mondeo’s advantages over its direct competitors is size. Its bigger dimensions translate into a more spacious cabin, and particularly rear legroom is vastly superior to what is on offer by its rivals. The boot, too, is big, and able to accommodate more than 500 litres worth of luggage. In front, the driving position is superb, with plenty of adjustment on offer from both the seat as well as steering wheel. As an aside, both front seats boast electric adjustment.
Refined power for Ford MondeoUnder the bonnet is a modern, transversely mounted 3,0-litre V6 with four valves per cylinder. It delivers a strong 166 kW and 280 Nm of torque at a somewhat heady 4 900 rpm. Unlike its colourful predecessors, the Ford Mondeo is front-wheel drive, so there are no tail-out antics on offer here. Power is transmitted to the front wheels via a slick, but noticeably spring-loaded gearbox.
Full-bore starts immediately reveal the character of this car as being surprisingly refined. There is no thunder from exhausts and the initial forward motion feels strong and linear, rather than thumping. Nevertheless, the Ford Mondeo is faster than it feels, with a 0-100 km/h time of 7,5 seconds being comfortably among the speediest in this segment. The top speed is an impressive 240 km/h. So, it certainly has grunt. As is to be expected, however, the penalty is a heavier thirst for petrol than its turbocharged rivals – expect to average around 12,5 litres/100 km.
Grippy handlingThe standard Ford Mondeo is already a fine-handling sedan, so Ford had a good starting point for the development of the ST220. It didn’t need to change much. The ride is a noticeably stiffer, but not so much that the car’s everyday usability has been spoilt. And those large 225/40 Continental tyres certainly provide lots of grip. It’s a car that remains impressively neutral all the way up to its heady handling limit, and the steering is excellent, too, boasting impressive turn-in sharpness and a nicely weighted feel. As a performance sedan, it really comes very close to hitting the nail squarely on its head.
All the time it is the car’s refinement that impresses most. It’s a far cry from the fast Fords of the past, which traded heavily on machismo and which were very rough around the edges. The Mondeo is always faster than it sounds or feels, and yet the power delivery becomes addictive once you’ve learnt its ways. There’s plenty torque low down, so out on the open road, when cruising at near the national limit, extra overtaking punch is just a flex of the right foot away.
Ford Mondeo - VerdictAt nearly R300 000, the Ford Mondeo ST220 is certainly not cheap, but all things being equal, the price is not unjustified. The standard specification, safety package, performance and size of the vehicle place the ST220 near the front of the field. Unfortunately, however, the Ford badge finds itself among some premium-level rivals from BMW, Audi, Mercedes and Volvo, and within that context, it’s hard to see it being a sales hit. It’s a big pity, because the Ford Mondeo ST220 is a very charming, capable car that may be remembered more fondly in future, than it is likely to be respected today.
- Refined, powerful engine
- Luxurious interior
- Striking looks
- Good handling
- Fuel thirst
Engine: 3,0-litre, V6, petrol
Power: 166 kW @ 6 150 rpm
Torque: 280 Nm @ 4 900 rpm
Transmission: Six-speed manual
Wheels: 18-inch alloy
Top speed: 240 km/h
0-100 km/h: 7,5 seconds
Fuel economy: 13,4 litres/100 km
- BMW 325i: Remains the quintessential executive sedan to those looking for entertaining performance and engaging dynamics. That said, it’s nearing the end of its product lifecycle, and it can’t match the Ford’s power, nor its spaciousness.
- Volvo S40 T5: A very desirable compact performance sedan with a powerful turbocharged five-cylinder engine that delivers plenty of fireworks. The interior, though not as spacious as the others, is very neatly made and ergonomically excellent.
- Alfa Romeo 156 V6: If you’re considering the Ford, then you’re after something a bit different, so why not look at this very charismatic Alfa? The engine is a beauty, though not as powerful and handling/ride is good, too. Only the interior trim quality lets the side down somewhat. A future classic?